Anti virusIf you’re asking yourself that question, possibly while slamming your head against a keyboard as your screen fills up with horrifying explicit ads or your World of Warcraft account has gotten hacked, the fact of the matter is, most users don’t require a high-end anti-virus, anti-spyware, or anti-malware program for their day-to-day lives.

There are several great options for free, generally as a trial or basic program, as well as the more hands-on approach. One word of warning before continuing: It is NEVER a good idea to torrent, pirate, or illegally download or crack your anti-virus software.In addition to being highly ironic, it’s an even better way to get your computer trashed by built-in countermeasures.

A: The Hands on Approach

Many websites, such as Trend Micro and F-safe, offer individual rootkit and malware destroying files. If you only have one virus (that you know of) and want to get rid of it, just download the executable, restart your computer in safe mode, run and voila! But, that still means that all the trojans, keyloggers, and other nasty viruses on your computer go unobserved.

B: The Free Option

Free pretty much says it all. The only thing that may be required, is that you register your anti-virus with the company giving it to you. Most only have a one year license, so you’ll need to do this every year. While they are all very good at what they do, they might lack some of the options of the paid version, or other anti-virus suites that you pay for. Good for the every day user.

I: Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

This little red and white package is perfect if you don’t have many poor browsing habits. Downloading and updates are all free, as well as the ability to run full or quick scans on your hard drive, discs and flash drives. Unfortunately, preventive measures such as real-time and automatic browser protection are only included on the full version. But generally, those are unnecessary. If you can run a weekly virus scan, it tends to be more than enough.

II: AVG

This anti-virus scanner uses a different virus database than Malwarebytes, but is still just as effective for real-time virus scans and quarantines. In addition, the free version comes with automatic web-surfing protection as well as email attachment scans. While some users have reported it may be a bit slower than other antivirus software, it’s still as versatile as many of the other free options on the market. The paid version includes anti-phishing and anti-keylogging measures, as well as PC optimization tools, but whether it actually works remains to be seen and tested extensively.

III: Alwil Avast! Antivirus Software

Yar! If ye be lookin’ fer a brigand’s guardian while trawling the high seas of the net, look no further! Or, in normal person speech, this is a very fine antivirus program. Again, you’ll see the usual antivirus and malware features such as rootkit removal, scanning, detection, preventive measures all available on the free version. Each works well, but there is one thing that seems to turn some users off; the user interface. It looks very much like a Winamp skin or the radio in your car, and not a swift and speedy little antivirus software program. Still, if you can get past looks, this might fulfill your needs.

IV: Microsoft Security Essentials

And of course, we have the classic Microsoft solution. Sadly, it doesn’t compare as well as the third-party developers’ outputs such as Norton, AVG, Avast et al. It scans a bit slower and the malware detection and rate of database updating is sadly slower than average. If you’re deeply brand loyal to Microsoft (and if so…why?), then you could always go with this model.

C: Free After Rebate Options

If you are going to buy the software, however, why pay for it? Most stores, offline and on, such as Staples, Office Depot, and Newegg, will offer a instant, or mail in rebate that will cover the entire cost of the software. One key to remember about the free after rebate route, is that they are banking on you NOT sending in your rebate. If you choose this route, make sure you are diligent about sending in and getting your rebate.

I: Norton Anti-Virus 2012

This is one of the earliest, best and most ubiquitous in anti-virus software, available for only $19.99 online (before rebate), with high scores in malware blocking and removal. Norton has been a cornerstone of anti-virus software for decades, and their latest iteration is no different.

II: Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2012

A bit more expensive (before rebate), but still great for the personal computer, Kaspersky is the world’s largest antivirus vendor, and with products like this it’s little wonder. All the standard features, as well as a constantly updating viral database.

As you can see from all the options above, you should be able to find something that fits your needs. If you run a home business, and want more complete protection, there is the free after rebate path.  If you don’t want the hassle of that, and you just want basic anti-virus protection, you can go with the totally free path. Bottom line is, why are you still paying for anti-virus software?

Tom Cross is a frequent computer user, gamer, and writer living in the Eastern United States. His interests include looking for Newegg coupons for the next must have gadget, playing video games, and placing files into folders.